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Cambodian students targeted to stop domestic violence

Thousands of students are attending awareness-raising meetings as Cambodia participates in the international 16-day White Ribbon Campaign to end violence against women, officials said yesterday.

This year’s campaign, which began on November 25 and runs until December 10, seeks to address the roots of domestic violence by changing the perspectives of young men under the age of 25, Ou Ratanak, a member of the Network of Men Leaders of UNiTE to End Violence Against Women and executive director of the People Health Development Association, said.

“We still see widespread violence towards women and children, despite government and civil society working to end it,” Ratanak said.

“Domestic violence is decreasing, but to continue this trend we have to educate and spread the word to youth.”

Ratanak said the campaign would reach more than 30 universities and high schools in Phnom Penh and Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.

“Western countries took at least 100 years to deal with domestic violence in their societies, but the Cambodian government has pursued this aim for only about 10 years, so we need more time.”  

Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi said yesterday that because domestic violence stemmed from societal attitudes that men were stronger and more valuable than women, education programs such as the ongoing White Ribbon Campaign were important to support government policies to change this.

According to materials from a similar education campaign in 2010 led by UNDP and the ministries of justice and interior, Cambodian society often turns a blind eye to abuse, allowing men to escape justice.

“Traditional beliefs about the subservient role and status of women and social stigmatisation of those women who take legal action against their husbands contribute to a culture of impunity that allows perpetrators to believe they have the ‘right’ to abuse.”

Twenty-two per cent of married women between 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence, usually from their husbands, the materials add.

A study of more than 2,000 Cambodian women published in the social-science journal Social Forces in 2006 found domestic violence to be strongly correlated with poverty and lack of education.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com

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